Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pain Pain, Go Away


They say, no gain!  I prefer: No pain, no pain!

If you know me you know I've had back pain since I was a kid. I took a bad hit playing bantam hockey at a game in Hamden when I was 13. I pummeled my head and neck playing football until that rainy Thanksgiving morning when we played Hillhouse in 1971 as the starting tight end when I happened to rupture my spleen on the opening kick off. 

All that self inflicted abuse resulted in 6 surgeries on my spine between 1978 and 2010. 

I've been on a personal quest all the while to find some relief from the constant, chronic and occasionally acute pressure and pain up and down my back and neck. If you go back to my very first entry in this blog you will see how it was this issue that got me writing to begin with.

You may have followed my journey to Mexico City where I hoped to be healed by the shaman who happened to croak before I had the chance to be see him. That was unfortunate.  For all involved.

I've been to every type of therapy, healer and specialist out there. I've tried every gimmick and device I could get my hands on. 

I took four years off from working and realized I was a happier, more fulfilled soul being productive, helping people and being engaged in making a difference. So I returned to work, got a good job, took all the difficult exams to get re-licensed and re-certified. And now I take my pain with me to work every day. It is there but I don't need to let it stop me or define me. 

I've received numerous cortisone injections at various levels of my lumbar vertebrae. Sometimes they help but usually only for a few days, a week or two at the most. 

Recently, my Pain Management doc suggested a new procedure. New to me anyway. I suspect it's been around for a while and I'm miffed no one mentioned it sooner. 

The procedure is called a Radio Frequency (RFA) Ablation. I think another word might be "cauterization". 

Simply put, I was mildly sedated at an out-patient surgical facility this past Monday morning at 8am. Still conscious, the doc made four injections on each side of my lower spine, eight in all. Each injection involved placing the tip of the needle right on the “foraminal" nerve at each each level. Those are the nerves that exit out the side of your vertebrae from the cord. A little burst of heat destroyed the nerve.  Bzzzztttt.  The entire procedure took ten minutes max.  I dozed off and was wheeled off to recovery. 

When I awoke I felt good. No low back pressure. No pain. I waited. It could have been the medication still having an effect. So I waited for it to wear off and for the pressure to return. Four days later and so far, so good. I'm walking taller. I feel great. Pain, my constant companion, is nowhere to be found. I'm optimistic that this is the real deal. The procedure is suppose to last for a year, maybe even two, before the nerves grow back and I would need to repeat the procedure. I can live with that. 

I have visions of playing golf, maybe reffing some hockey. Who knows. 

For now, as my our friend Flo, from Progressive says, I feel goooooood….real goooood.

UPDATE- 11/30/2015:  Well, that was a much ado about nothing.  No relief was all from the pain meds/anesthesia.

I've been through many appointments and find myself preparing for what will be my 7th back surgery coming up next week.  An L5-S1 MAS TLIF(Minimally invasive Surgery-Transforamenal Lumbar Interbody Fusion)  Looking forward to some relief.  I will update here as I go through the process.

Wish me luck! 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Lost In Space

Well, I started this blog couple of years ago at a time when I thought my son's hockey career might be nearing an end.

Fortunately, it did not.  At least not at that time. But it got me thinking which spurred me to write and I've had  great time documenting the arc of this tale.

Without going into details, things came to a crashing halt last spring after the end of the season.  Family crisis, personal issues.  Nothing I felt comfortable publically writing about.  And I still don't.

There were difficult days, lessons learned and a reassessment of what is important in life. As of this time it appears as though things have resolved themselves and everyone is on a very positive path.  Just without hockey.  Hopefully, there will be more hockey to come.  I suspect there will be.

One of the most shocking revelations for me was to realize the extent to which I was writing to tell this story, from my perspective...which by the way I stated was my intention in my very first chapter.  But what I failed to recognize was how much I was unaware of what was going on with my kid all this while.  It was startling to discover the extent to which I had missed the big picture.

So, yeah, my stories were fun to write and hopefully fun for you to read, but it wasn't the whole story.  I suppose it never is.  I liked my story. What was really happening though was invisible to me and when things came to light/hit the was damn sobering.

I've missed writing.  I love sharing my life and my story.  I haven't quite figured out how to do so given these recent circumstances.

Streaking at Bowdoin or Colby circa 1974-5 with Gene Cufone
So, a big part of my life is missing.  Hockey has been such an important part of who I am since I was 12 years old.  For the first time in many years, there are no tryouts.  There is no worrying about coaches, and competition, ice-time and injuries.  I will not be travelling to watch my son play.  I am not doing anything with The San Diego Gulls junior program as far as video or play by play goes.

I did throw my hat in the ring to coach the San Diego State University ACHA club team but was beat out by a BC alum who played some AHL and actually attended Tilton Prep school where my son went.  I was not sad when I didn't get the job.  5:30am practices, games every weekend and travel.  It would have been fun but a lot of work. I've had the chance to jump in as an assistant but my heart isn't in it.

The only hockey in my life these days is watching my L.A. Kings start another season.

Check out Roo surfing
You may or may not know, that I have undergone 6 spinal surgeries in my life...the last being in early 2010 and I ended up going on disability.  This gave me a lot of time to spend doing things like traveling to watch my kid skate, writing, hanging out at coffee shops and walking my dog.
Here is our doggie in a surfing contest this summer.

Earlier this year I returned to the world of work, finance, financial planning. Having taken the time off gave me valuable insight and perspective and I am a far better planner than I ever was.

Back at it.... #CFP
Max's first time on ice...1991ish
I am busy. I have focus and a purpose.   My wife of 27 years and I have fallen in love all over again.  We realized that we had not taken a vacation without it being hockey or soccer/softball or family related in years and years..  We are taking a trip to Belize right after the New Year.  It was going to be a romantic getaway, a second honeymoon.  Some how it's evolved and now both of my kids and some other friends are coming as well. We have two houses on the beach in Placencia, Belize that sleep about 10.  We have room for another few guests if you are interested! :-) We will sun, snorkel, drink and have a blast.

So...things are much different.  I hope to find my footing and get back on track with something worth writing about.  I really miss it.

Feel free to be in touch though the comment section or by emailing me at  if you like.  I'd love to hear from any of you.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Secret of Life?

The Secret of Life

(I wrote this a over a year ago, but watching the Kings tie the Ducks to go to OT with 7 seconds left on the clock reminded me of this, so I thought I would post it.)

(update: Kings up 2-0 over Rangers in finals-  see end of blog)

I have a secret.  It's a way to relate to, possibly even trick the universe into giving me what I want.  It won me(my L.A. Kings) a Stanley Cup.  It's won me numerous hands and virtual money playing online poker.  It's helped my son break out of a scoring slump.  I'm still working on winning the lottery.  That hasn't happened yet.  Probably never will.

I realize that in reality, I have nothing to do with the outcome of many, if any,  of these examples.  But I would like to make the case that the less emotionally invested I can make myself in the outcome, the more likely the result I prefer occurs.

Here's the seems the more I want something the less likely I am to see it come to fruition.  I'll use the simple example of online poker.  Let's say there are a total of five people at the table.  The two pocket cards are dealt to me that only I am privy to.  It could be as good as pair of aces or as dismal as an unsuited 3 and an 8.  I either check, raise or fold based on whether or not I think my odds of winning the hand are favorable.  

I've played enough to realize that what appears to be a good hand turns out not to be and what looks unlikely can end up being a winner.  Worse yet, I've seen that often when I stay with a hand hoping to draw a needed card, it rarely comes.   Only to fold with what looks like a poor hand and then end up with 4 of a kind had I stayed with it.

The conclusion is:  I can't win!

The more I play the more I realize that the cards don't care, the results aren't personal, there is no such thing as luck.  

Here is what I mean and how I implement these observations into a winning strategy.  The cards don't care.  So, I place my bet, raise or fold depending on the actual odds, understanding that what ever cards are revealed are pure chance.  I expect to lose.  So my bets are commensurate with not expecting to draw the card or cards I would need for a straight, a flush or 3 of a kind, etc.  I expect that if I fold, the cards that are revealed during the flop, the turn or the river will be the exact cards I needed.

I rarely bet based on hoping or needing to draw a card.  I'm willing to fold and miss a great hand.  It's better to live to play another hand than to go all in or make a large bet praying for the poker gods to save my ass.

The underlying theme is to let go of any expectations for any needed result.  Again, the results aren't personal.  The result of the hand have nothing to do with how lucky or unlucky I am.  The cards are what the cards are.  They don't care how I feel about the fact, the more invested my emotions are in the outcome, my experience is that it usually goes against me.

I noticed last year during the hockey season that sitting in front of the tv watching, hoping, needing the Kings to score that they rarely did.  Then  I started to notice that as soon as I took my attention off of the game, they would score.  Of course I realize their scoring or not scoring have nothing to do with me sitting there on my couch.  The puck goes in or it doesn't.  It doesn't matter what I think, feel or do.    However, as I continued watching the Kings over the rest of the season and into the playoffs, I practiced this mindful letting go of the result while watching the game.  

When the number eight seed Kings faced the top seeded Vancouver Canucks, things didn't look good for L.A.  I sat on my couch and expected the worse.  Then a funny thing began to happen.  The Kings who have rarely had playoff success marched through every round of the playoffs and ended up winning the Stanley Cup.  Did I have anything to do with that?  Of course not.  But in my own little internal reality, good things happen when I let go.  When I hold on to hope and have an emotional stake in the outcome things tend to be frustrating and fruitless.

A couple of years ago when my son was playing junior hockey, he was in the midst of a several game scoring slump.  I was watching his games live online.  The games were frustrating to watch.  I was not enjoying the thing that I enjoy most in the world.   There was a lot at stake.  My son was in the midst of his final year of junior hockey and the college recruiting process was in full swing.  He needed to produce to get recruited.  I watched every shot he would take with intensity, hoping and praying it would go in.  But the shots were blocked, would go wide or would hit the post.  Nothing was going in.  He would set up a nice goal for a line mate and then the ref would not credit him with the assist.  

I stopped and realized how miserable this was for me, not to mention for my son.  It occurred to me that I was missing the enjoyment and satisfaction of watching my kid skate.  He's a beautiful skater.  A magician of a playmaker.  Sometimes he scores and sometimes he doesn't.  I decided to put my theory to the test and take my attention off of the result and focus on enjoying watching him skate.    The next game I was a mindfully detached observer.  He scored, then again and then two more times.  He scored four goals that day.  His best game ever.  He went on to finish in the top four or five in scoring for the league.

This past year, his freshman college season, he was having a rough go.  He wasn't getting much ice time and when he did he wasn't being productive.  He got a chance to play in a game in January vs. Middlebury College...a team that had beaten his team earlier in the season, 3-2.  I detached while I watched.  Two goals and an assist later and 7-1 victory and I had to laugh.  

I went to the Kings game two in the Western Conference semi-finals vs. San Jose.(this was last year-2013)   With 1:43 left in the game and trailing 3-2, I jokingly said, "Ok, time to stop caring".   :22 seconds later the Kings scored the go ahead goal to make it a 4-3 win.

Did I have anything to do with it?  No.  I am fully aware of this.  But, the results are there and I have more internal peace than had I stressed out everytime a hand was dealt, the Kings played or my son shot the puck.

It's Tuesday, I'm off to buy a lottery ticket.  Will I win?  I don't expect to.

(update: Tonight is Monday.  Game 3 of the Kings vs. Rangers Stanley Cup Finals.  Saturday night I was home watching game two with my wife and son.  The score was all knotted at 4-4 in the second overtime period.  My daughter, who happens to be driving cross country texted me.  She said: Was that the final?  I responded: What final?

I thought about it for a second and it occurred to me she may was either listening to the game or someone had texted her that the game was over.  But the game wasn't over.  I was still watching and it was tied at 4-4.  Then I realized that maybe our TV was lagging a bit behind. Maybe I'd paused it at one point.  Who knows...but it occurred to me that we weren't watching in real time and my daughter had gotten the score ahead of us.

So I boldly proclaimed, as the Kings were entering the zone that they were about to score to win the game.  I called it right on the nose.  Just like that the puck came around to the point, Dustin Brown tipped it in and the Kings won.  I couldn't have made it up any better.

For a few minutes I let my wife and son think I'd actually called the goal.  Then I fessed up and told them about the heads up text I got from my daughter.

A bit later, I called my daughter and she had no idea what I was talking about.  She wasn't listening to the game.  No one had updated her.  The goal had not yet happened.  We were actually watching in real time.

As accidental and coincidental as it was I pulled that one out of thin air and called that goal.  Of course, I realize this was all just circumstance and timing, but it was pretty funny how it played out.

Game three is in four hours...I'm not calling anything.)

Friday, February 28, 2014

Old Time Hockey -A Lifetime of Hockey In Pictures

I've been busy lately and unable to write.  I thought I would post these pictures just for the heck of it, in no particular order.

Mikey Spunt taking a spill-Gulls Bantams

Max & Cassidy Apri(UNE '16)

Jr. A Gulls-Ludwig Carlson, Our Billett

Polar Vortex on Phipps 2014

MLB'r Xavier Nady(our old neighbor in Scripps Ranch)

With David Corbin Kings v Sharks 2013 playoffs

Pepe's #1 Pizza in the US!

At home with mom and dad 

Friends and Umass Lowell teammates of Chad Ruhwedal

With Brian Laing at Geneseo 

AAA Jr. Monarchs-full penalty box


Gulls Bantams with Wayne Gretzky

Hockey Dads calling it in.

Randy Carlyle

With my old Uconn team mates-Gene Cufone and Paul McCormick

On Loan from Bensen's
My kid-all smiles.

Used skate wall at Whitey Bensen's

Lake Phipps

Scripps Roller Alum game 2013

Winter break 2013

With mom

Black Ice

With Connor Crouse(my HS Coach's Grandson)

HS team mate Dave Hansen with his son

Beautiful ice on the lake-Polar Vortex

Uconn-Streaking at Bowdoin College circa 1974

San Diego Gulls-Squirt
With Tim Bothwell. NHL pro, Brown U grad, past UVM and
Canadian Olympic Women's coach
Happy Camper with 1st hockey
stick.  Souvenir from Koho Hockey
School.  It didn't last long.
Max playing with NHL'ers in SoCal

Bret gaining valuable Chuck a puck experience
With NBC host Willie Geist
1974-75  Uconn Team Pic
Old Uconn Media Guide

Northern Cyclones Junior Hockey

Obligatory In & Out Burger stop

Langley Event Center, BCHL

Mustangs San Diego Beer League

AJ Grabowski-Billet from Rochester, NY
BCHL Langley Chiefs Main Camp

Jack Parker viewing the prep camp
Dance of the Sugar Plum Goalies-BCHL camp

Kyle, Me, Deb Richards, Mark Messier and Frank Longobardi
at Freitas Arena-Uconn Hockey
Jr. Gulls Midgets visiting NAHL locker room in Dallas

West Haven-John Glynne and me

Tony Amendola, Gunner Garrett, White Bensen and more

Elmira College 2013-14
Elmira 2013-14

Vs Oswego State

Thanksgiving at Skidmore 2013

Elmira in the community

1970 Bantam Team at Edward L. Bennett Rink, West Haven

Yeah, I wore Langes for a while
SD Gulls Bantams

AJHL Northern Cyclones

Last game as a junior

Gulls Midget-assistant coach

CAHA Midget 16u playoffs

Most recent surgery-2010

Junior Hockey

Stanley Cup at NHL Awards in Las Vegas

Stanley Cup Dude

BCHL Tryout

First time without a mask

Uconn vs. AIC

USJDP in Colorado-summer camp

Titlon Campus

BU vs Umass 

Uconn Locker room

Uconn Alum-Steve Swanson & Scott Inman

Uconn Alumni Game

Uconn Alumni Game

Bruce Marshall-Uconn Coach

Bruce Miller with Dale Obinger(RIP)

Waiting for Flight in Philly

Ski Trip at Hockey Tourney in Salt Lake City


Tilton Graduation with Coach Norton

The Hentz island house on Lake Winnepesaukee

West Haven-Lake Phipps

Scripps Ranch HS Roller Goalie

Visiting Hall of Fame during Toronto Marlies Tourney

Gulls Bantams with Coach Bruce Miller

Friends saying good bye.  Max heading off to prep school

Infamous puck found at lake Phipps

The Hentzes

Puck to the face-end of my senior league career 2006

OT Win vs. Chris Kreider and Phllips Andover


Sending the boy off to school after Christmas break

NH Northern Cyclones at Natty's in Rochester MN

Scripps Roller hockey

Plattsburgh State 2012-13

Top Shelf vs. Jr. Ducks in Anaheim

The Pageaus-Quebec peewee billet family

The Aprils

Max behind Luke Duprey-same age PrePrep Showcase

Our first look at a preppy @ PrePrep Showcase

With one of our Billets at a Padres game

Bantam-pregame meeting in hotel lobby

Hockey Dads-Fiocco and Heidrich

Some random kid helping Bruce Miller with Strategy

Kyle and Jeff Spunt

PreDraft or Chowder Cup

Driveway goal

Sidney Crosby at Tilton

With Doug Hentz-NH
I think we won?

Jack Parker watching

Boston University prep camp

Mite jersey

Max's first ever jersey from Mark Hughes

Tilton-Practice is over early

Tilton graduation

Tilton's new jersey

Sophomore season at Uconn

Rockin the porn stache!

Junior year at Uconn

Senior year at Uconn

West Haven High School..1969 or so with Tony Amendola

Northern Cyclones at Tier 3 Jr. Nationals

Northern Cyclones at Tier 3 Jr. Nationals

Northern Cyclones at Tier 3 Jr. Nationals
Northern Cyclones at Tier 3 Jr. Nationals

First Elmira Scrimmage

My D1 Athlete!

Off Campus at Uconn Senior year

Plattsburgh State 2012-13

Mom and Son
Bro and Sis

Platty Goal vs. Middlebury 2013

Chad Ruhwedel's NHL Debut 2013

Transfer ho!

Chad Ruhwedel, Jon Parker, Max-Miracle Peewee team
Jaguars CAHA State Champs

Chad Ruhwedel, Max and Scripps Ranch roller hockey team

Dave Corbin, Chad Ruhwedel and me

A natural born hockey player....and his dad!

West Haven H.S. Senior Class pic 1973

First Bantam team 1970

Shopping in Boston

Koho Camp in Finland with Depew and Longo

Uconn vs. New England College-mid 70s

Skate with an Eagle-preseason 2013-14

West Haven's G-A-P Line

Fun hockey sock hat at Bill Gray's in Rochester, NY


Cyclones Game Schedule

Sophomore year at Uconn 1974/75

In the Corner-Uconn's outdoor rink

Lang Gang at Uconn

1973 West Haven High School Hockey Team
Henri Langevin, Me, Paul "Corny" McCormick

West Haven H.S. Sporting the Lange Skates
and some serious flow